Give `em Enough Rope

March 21, 2012

Here’s what I think.

I think council should give Mayor Rob Ford a reprieve. Let’s say 6 months, a year, to get a viable subway plan in place and then decide on the fate of transit along Sheppard Avenue.

You know why?

Because he’ll never come up with a viable plan. At least not without having to raise the spectre of tax increases, road tolls, parking levies, congestion fees. Even his pliant subway point man, Dr. Gordon Chong, has told him as much. Let the mayor face the cold, hard truth that subways don’t come for free as he assured voters they do when he was campaigning for the job in 2010 and when he cancelled Transit City in December of that year.

Since he declared his candidacy for mayor, Rob Ford has had 2 years to come up with a funding plan. What’ll change between now and the end of this year, say? What enticement can he possibly concoct to draw the private sector out of its current reticence that he hasn’t already tried? Who would be still waiting in the wings to swoop in and save the subway day for the mayor?

I’m thinking his bag of tricks is empty and any extra time he’s granted will see him dangle in the wind a little longer, his concern being which campaign promise he’s going to break. Subways or respecting the taxpayers? He can’t have both. Let him determine what’ll hurt him more come 2014.

Forcing a decision on the mayor will give him what he’s looking for most: a re-election wedge issue. That’s what this is about when all is said and done. Mayor Ford doesn’t give a shit about public transit planning beyond keeping the streets clear for cars. This is simply about political optics not good governance.

So, give him a deadline, a ticking clock, and send him on his way. Go, Mayor Ford, come up with a plan, a detailed funding scheme, and lay it all out for us at, why don’t we make it the December 2012 council meeting. Tell us how you propose to build your subways.

We all know how it’ll turn out. Without significant contribution from the public purse, there’ll be no subways. He’s already asking for $1 billion of public funds to get things started, a far cry from the completely private funded subway he promised previously.

And now his dwindling number of loyalists are slapping together a new tax and levy plan for today’s council meeting. “Be ready to be surprised,“ Councillor Michael Thompson said. “I think anything is possible.”

Anything’s possible. Mayor Ford may accept the reality that he has to raise taxes and introduce levies in order to get his subway built. But how does he square this with his base who have expressed no interest in paying anything more out of their pocket in order to have their beloved subways? It is the monster he created with his magical tales of a city with a spending not a revenue problem. He guaranteed we could have it all, low taxes and shiny new infrastructure. No money down. No interest payments. Ever.

Council should let the mayor disillusion his supporters instead of making him a martyr to the vagaries of democracy. He’ll take a defeat today and run with it for the next two-and-a-half years, setting up another go at the urban-suburban divide he so successfully exploited in 2010. He wants more time? Give him more time. He’s already blasted through his promise of extending both the Sheppard Avenue and Bloor-Danforth subways by 2015. Yeah, he really did say that. A few more months just gives him additional time to keep crossing those promises off his list, the ones broken not delivered.

Empty rhetoric and sloganeering begin to sound hollow over time. While the mayor and his supporters have gained some traction chanting dullard sound bites like 1st class transit, glorified streetcars and screwing Scarborough, it’s already grown as tired as it is shrill. Imagine another 9 months of it? Even the subwayest of subway supporters will demand a little more meat on the bone. Alright already! Put up or shut up, Mayor Ford.

So desperate has Team Ford become that it started handing out pictures of light-rail accidents and fatalities at Monday’s transit town hall in Scarborough. Yeah, I’m going with the obvious pun here. The wheels have already officially come off the bus.

For the sake of the city and its future well being, a fork should be stuck in, his transit plans are done. But the mayor hasn’t accepted that fact yet. It wasn’t a workable plan when he campaigned on it. It wasn’t any more workable when he tried to kill Transit City. It remains unworkable today and won’t get any more workable in a few months time.

Tomorrow start the countdown both time-wise and money-wise. Begin tabulating the costs for the mayor’s intransigence, add them to his bill, put the price on his head, hang the waste and delay around his neck, kick the last leg out from the already creaky chair of self-proclaimed sound fiscal management.

When Mayor Ford comes crawling back to council with either bupkus — a still unfunded subway plan — or one so laden with taxes and levies that his Respect For The Taxpayers cloak will be tattered beyond recognition but will serve as the necessary opening for the adult conversation to city finances that his campaign and mayoralty short-circuited, the landscape will have changed. It won’t be just about Scarborough versus downtown anymore. If we’re going to be paying higher property taxes or parking levies will it only be for a subway in Scarborough? What about Etobicoke? How about that downtown relief line we’ve always wanted?

There won’t be a wedge issue for the mayor to try and exploit. His revenue-versus-spending equation will have been blown to pieces. He will have either a subway to boast about but at the expense of the taxpayers’ pocket book or simply a wasted year, unnecessarily screwing with transit construction when shovels were already in the ground. As mayor I got you what you already had but a year and a half late. Re-elect Rob Ford!

Left to his own devices just a little longer, Mayor Ford will succeed in making himself irrelevant and then we can finally get back to start running this city with some semblance of normalcy.

spitballingly submitted by Cityslikr